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Stratford Festival unveils design concepts for proposed new Tom Patterson Theatre

Toronto’s Hariri Pontarini selected as architect

Posted on Tue, Aug 1st, 2017 6:58 pm by news services

The Stratford Festival has unveiled design concepts for a new Tom Patterson Theatre, which it hopes to build over the coming year.


“Our dream is to build a new facility that will be a jewel on the Avon, and that will rival some of the most beautiful theatres in the world,” said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino.


After an extensive international search, the Festival has selected architect Siamak Hariri, of Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini, to take on the project.


“We approached dozens of firms from around the world, but the work of Canada’s own Siamak Hariri stood out and was the Board’s unanimous choice,” said Dan Bernstein, Chair of the Festival’s Board of Governors and head of the architectural search committee. “He and his firm have designed such acclaimed buildings as the inspirational Baha’i Temple of South America, in Chile, the Schulich School of Business at York University, which won the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture, and the striking new Richard Ivey School of Business in London. Siamak is passionate about the transformative potential of architecture. We are all very keen to proceed with this project and create a treasured landmark for generations to come.” 


With inspiration taken from the glorious riverside setting, the building’s design features undulating walls of shimmering glass, hung with thin bronze mullions. A terraced garden, beautiful enough to be a landmark in itself, stretches from one end of the site to the other.


“Siamak’s design took my breath away,” said Mr. Cimolino. “This theatre will be a thing of great beauty and an attraction in itself.”


“We are honoured to be designing the new Tom Patterson Theatre,” said Mr. Hariri. “We aspire to turn what is beloved within the theatre outward to reflect the joy and spontaneity that delights audiences of the Stratford Festival in architectural form.” 


As impressive as the building is as a piece of architecture, it will first and foremost be a theatrical production facility, and must address the current venue’s shortcomings.


“The Stratford Festival began leasing the current Tom Patterson Theatre 46 years ago,” said Executive Director Anita Gaffney. “It has become a much-loved theatre, but it is woefully inadequate for the caliber of performance and experience our patrons have come to expect. The Festival must continue to grow and develop in order to remain a vibrant part of the culture and economy of this country. To do so, we much be proactive in the upkeep of our facilities, always staying at the forefront of the cultural industry.”


Among other concerns, the theatre lacks sufficient backstage space for actors and technical support. The structure’s roof cannot withstand an expansion of the lighting grid. Seating is uncomfortable and access can be challenging for patrons. As the building is in a fragile state, renovation is not an option.


“This project will expand the Festival’s creative options, allow us to accommodate a wider repertoire and significantly change our cultural landscape. It will also give us facilities for digital media, education activities, the Forum and the Laboratory for new play development,” said Mr. Cimolino.


“The new theatre will expand on the magical qualities of the existing Tom Patterson auditorium. It will be uniformly intimate. It will have vastly improved acoustics and a much greater sense of comfort for audience members. It will take the strengths of the current theatre and make them bespoke – tailored with the finest materials and craftsmanship,” he added.


The building carries a $60-million price tag. With $20 million already promised by the Ontario government, the Festival is awaiting a response from Ottawa and will soon be launching a capital campaign to raise the balance. The Festival must also obtain permission from the City of Stratford to move forward with the project on the existing site, which is municipally owned. If it is able to clear these hurdles, it would ideally like to begin construction upon completion of the 2017 season in October.


“Sixty-five years ago, the opening of the Festival transformed our community,” said Ms Gaffney, a lifelong Stratford resident whose father’s construction company laid the foundation for the Festival Theatre. “The new Tom Patterson Theatre promises to add a whole new dimension to the Festival and the community. It will set us apart from other world-class theatres and help us to attract audiences from around the globe.”